Do you ever wish your team was better but don’t know how, as a singular player to enact real change? Take a look around you at practice and see if you identify some challenges your team may be having. Could things be moving faster in practice? Could the energy be more electric? Could people be having more fun? Do you ever just attribute the lack of tempo, energy and fun to your coach, and just live with it? Is it really the coaches fault? Is there anything you can do to make your team better, and meanwhile make yourself better? Heck yes!
Here are 5 ways you can make your team (and yourself) better immediately. I challenge you to try these in your next practice.
- RUN Everywhere (even when you think it’s not warranted). Set the example for the pace of the drills. Imagine a simple butterfly drill where everyone walks from one station to the next-booooooooring. Now imagine the same drill where everyone runs, chin up, to their next job. The first thing that will happen is that the energy of the drill will immediately change. Second (and more importantly), every player gets more reps when you move more quickly. Push the pace of everything that’s going on by moving those legs. This also goes for going into and out of water breaks and time-outs, during drills, and while shagging (remember, good shagging is a large reflection of strong team culture). You don’t have to be a professional volleyball player to RUN, and this will make your team better immediately. Long Beach State University head Coach Brian Gimillaro has his players NEVER stop running the entire practice. Even if they’re standing in place, they’re jogging in place. Not only are practices higher tempo and energy, but the players are conditioning the entire practice and are in great shape. So, to start, even if you’re the only one doing it– get your body moving!
- Use Your VOICE. This is probably the most essential key to making yourself and your team better immediately. Especially for those of you that are younger, or less experienced, or lack confidence, finding your court voice can be extremely difficult. Are you afraid of what other people on your team might think of you if you yell more? What if you say the wrong thing? Are you afraid you’ll be the only one? My answer to all of these questions? SO WHAT?! Do you want to raise the level of your team? Do you want to play on your varsity high school team? Are you considering going on to play in college? You will never make it if you don’t use that voice. You were not born with the ability to play volleyball, but you were certainly born with the ability to use those lungs and make noise (I bet your Mom will vouch for me on this one)- so DO it. Noise creates energy, and energy creates better, more fun, more exciting, more interesting volleyball. BE LOUD.
- Make Physical Contact with your Teammates. It’s a proven fact that teams that touch each other more, do better. Make as much contact as you can with your team, after plays, in huddles, before matches, etc. Make it a point to high five or pat on the back after every single play. Also make SURE your team comes together to put arms around one another after every play. This is a pivotal moment for your team to reconnect, make physical and eye contact to get on the same page before the next play. The less you touch each other, the more isolated you become from your teammates, and usually the worse you play. Watch really high level college or national teams and check out how much they touch each other– it’s a big deal. This is not tennis. You’re a team and teams touch. Do it.
- Be an Advocate for Technique. The definition of discipline is “making the decision to do something the correct way, even when you don’t want to”. For example, you could probably forearm pass a ball with terrible technique, a sloppy finish and bad feet and still get the ball to the target, right? But is that good enough? Are you satisfied with that level of discipline and technique as a competitive club volleyball player? If it was that easy to be good, why wouldn’t everyone play club volleyball? Do the things that you have special training to do accurately, precisely, and with focus and discipline– and this means EVERY time you perform a skill. This is a choice. Use the “Ready 1/2/3s”, hold your “long finish” in every skill, move around the court as quickly and athletically as you can- don’t stand up, don’t be lazy, don’t take the easy way out. It’s contagious and it will make your team better.
- Go for EVERYTHING, Even When it’s Unreasonable. Don’t ever give your coach a reason to tell you to “hit the ground” or “GO!”. I want to see you climb up walls, jump into the stands, run onto the other court, and dive dive dive to try and get EVERY ball. Will you get every ball? No. But effort on every ball will inspire those around you to try harder and eventually, your team will be digging and saving balls that never had a chance before. Just make the choice at the beginning of practice that you will hit the ground for every ball that’s going to hit the ground, and see what kind of magic happens. Look how far THIS GUY was willing to go for his team, would you do the same? Imagine what kind of excitement this could spark! Just do it, without having to be asked, without anyone else on your team doing it, just because YOU WANT TO and it’ll make your team better.
So who’s in? Quit complaining about your team and make it (and yourself) better. Start today.